My most reliable AWAY Tactic 4-3-3


Feb 19, 2013
This is my favorite away tactic that usually gets me results. As you would expect from a strong away tactic, it has mentality counter and a defensive midfielder.

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So what are the keys that make this tactic work? The three central midfielders are strong in the middle, the formation usually generates possession advantage (~55%+ in general), and it is set up for the counter to punish the other team's overly aggressive attacks and mistakes. Width is provided by two fullbacks and two inside forwards. The false 9 tries to drag defenders out of possession then feed the forwards when they get open.

Unlike other tacticians, I do not set my DLP as an anchorman but set to a support role. My ballwinning midfielder gets the Defensive role instead. So what results do I get with this tactic?

Most impressive results:

5-0 away victory vs Leverkusen, Champions League group stage. vs 4-4-2.
2-1 away victory vs Chelsea, Premier League. vs 4-1-4-1.
2-0 away victory vs Chelsea, Champions League quarterfinals. vs 4-1-4-1.
5-0 away victory vs Swansea, Premier League. vs 4-4-1-1.
2-0 away victory vs Stoke, Premier League. vs 4-1-2-2-1.

I find that away games are the most difficult to secure results, so I'm glad that I have a solid formation to use for most away games. What I like about this formation is that it easily handles what can be a troublesome 4-1-4-1 formation, and it also matches up well against the quite common 4-2-3-1 and 4-1-2-2-1 formation.

To me the most important players in this tactic are the spine - strong central defenders, versatile fullbacks, a ball winning midfielder who can shut down and win possession, and a DLP who can supply the ball quickly and precisely to offensive players on the counter. I would like to have one central defender with a good passing/vision/teamwork (14+) stat to quickly move the ball forward on the counter.

I chose very fluid formation because I wanted more players to contribute into the defense, and then transition everyone to offense on the counter. I chose a high tempo because I want my superior athletes to run down my opponents. You might choose a different tempo if your team composition is slower of foot.


In buildup - I chose play out of defense and exploit flanks. I want the ball to get quickly from the back third to my wide players, the fullbacks and forwards.

In attack - I chose look for overlap and work ball into box, because I want numerical superiority when surging into the final third, and I don't want a lot of wasteful long shots from 40 yards away. I also chose whipped crosses because they are harder for the defense to deal with and can lead to goals when they get through.

Closing down - I chose prevent short GK distribution, and use tighter marking because I want to force the GK to kick the ball long, increasing chances of a quick turnover. I don't want to allow them to easily build from the back. I want to force them to take medium-long passes which allows me to steal possession and increase possession advantage. I left tackling neutral, because get stuck in produces too many flags.

Passing Directness - Retain possession is key so we take less risks and hold the ball more on a hostile ground, and be more disciplined because the strength of the formation defensively is its shape.

Dribbling - I chose run at defense more, but that is because I have very talented dribblers - 20, 17, and 14 are the dribbling stats for my 3 forwards. You might want to untick this if your forwards are more of the better passing/finishing types but with low dribbling scores.

Please let me know how this tactic does for you! Away matches are the toughest to win imo, so hopefully this can get you a few more points from those difficult away games!


Feb 19, 2013
Great question. I use a more aggressive tactic for home games. I call it the 5-2-3 crash because it features an overload mentality and marauding wingbacks. This tactic is not as well tested as the away tactic so I haven't posted it yet, but this is how it looks. Maybe after I do more testing and refinement, I'll post this home tactic as well.

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Feb 19, 2013
Team composition. Interesting Question. I have a mix of world class, star, and leading players. So this tactic certainly works for big sides who have ambitions of winning the CL or PL title.

I'll need to do testing with smaller sides to see how it does for them. Maybe I'll run a season with a lower table team or even championship level team and report back later.

Current side that produced the above results:
GK Rulli, Timo Horn
FB Moreno, Clyne, Jonny
CB Stones, Romagnali, Manolas, Mammana
CM/DM Emre Can, Henderson, Hojberg, Tielemans, Pogba
Wingers Neymar, Reus, Coman, Markovic, Coutinho, Odegaard
ST Dybala, Embolo, Calleri, Martial

My most expensive players were Pogba, Neymar, Reus, Dybala, Stones, Romagnali, and Coman.
Everyone else was either already under the team or buyable for 20m or less.

The GK is very important. Rulli can be gotten on a free in season 2 and he is my #1 keeper. Timo Horn has a release clause of only 6.5m so is a great bargain.

Mammana can be a leading premier league defender and only cost 5.5m at the start. Keep an eye on Odegaard dissatisfaction and this wonderkid can be yours for around 20m from Real Madrid. Andrija Zivkovic is currently on loan but I bought him for only 4m and expect him to become a rotation player to replace Markovic. Calleri is a bargain striker buy at 6.5m but can contribute straight away and become a leading PL player.

What are good players for the tactic?

GK - you want good positioning, communication, and command of area. next you want reflexes, agility, one on one. Rulli is one of the best one on one keepers in the game.

CB - strong marking, tackling, strength, heading, jumping reach 15+. above average pace, concentration, composure, bravery 13+. one of the centerbacks should have decent passing, vision, teamwork 13+ as that person will be a ball outlet on the counter. avoid centerbacks with low composure and first touch ie less than 10, because they have a tendency to get flustered and/or lose the ball in disadvantageous situations.

CM/DM - Marking/Tackling of 12+ is good. The AP doesn't need high marking/tackling but for the other midfielders, the higher is better. Passing and Technique of 15+ is good. Pay attention to their decisions/teamwork/vision stat, the higher the better. Also check their suitability for the roles and place them in positions that suit them best.

Wingers - Dribbling, Flair, Passing, Teamwork, Vision, Off the Ball, Anticipation, Agility, Acceleration, Pace, 13+ are all helpful. Higher Finishing 14+ is a great bonus for scoring wingers.

The best left wingers I've seen are Eden Hazard, Neymar, Alexis Sanchez, Marco Reus, and of course Christiano Ronaldo.

Strikers - The most important stats for striker in this formation are Agility, Off the Ball, Finishing, Dribbling, Teamwork, Anticipation, Composure, 14+, Passing, Vision, Crossing, First Touch, Pace, Acceleration, Flair 13+ are helpful as well. Helpful PPMs include comes deep to get ball, plays one-twos, moves into channels, and places shots.

I leave opposition instructions to the assistant manager, but if you know of a particular matchup you have to watch out for, feel free to instruct your team accordingly. Usually the pre-match scouting report lets you know their most dangerous/influential player.

When holding onto a lead with say 10 minutes to go I will switch instructions to - play even safer, waste time, and mentality to contain. It is a bad idea to change mentality too early, since if you are too passive, the opposition will take advantage to capture more possession % and might get a lucky goal that wouldn't happen if you were at the initial mentality.
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Feb 19, 2013
Update - Does this away tactic work for lower table teams? Good news, yes it does! Although you will have to use a more extreme 'park the bus' tactic against giants, this away tactic worked well in the Championship, where I took Wolverhampton Wanderers to a 3rd place finish, a championship playoff victory, and promotion to the Premier League! Attached is the final screenshot of the table.

Summary of Away Results using Smoke 4-3-3 v 1.2:
[CS= Championship C1C= Capital 1 Cup FAC = FA Cup]

CS 2-1 win vs Blackburn 4-3-3 (4-1-2-3 DM wide)
CS 0-0 draw vs Cardiff 4-4-2
C1C 1-0 win vs Fulham 4-4-1-1
CS 1-2 loss vs Bolton 4-3-2-1
CS 0-0 draw vs Bolton 4-4-1-1

C1C 3-0 win vs West Ham 4-4-1-1
CS 0-2 loss vs Preston 5-2-1-2 WB
CS 1-1 draw vs Derby 4-3-2-1
C1C 3-2 win vs Aston Villa 4-4-2 Narrow Diamond
CS 0-1 loss vs Birmingham 4-2-1-3 DM Wide

CS 1-2 loss vs Bristol city 5-2-1-2 WB
CS 1-1 draw vs Ipswich 4-4-2
C1C 3-1 win vs Middlesbrough 4-2-3-1
CS 1-0 win vs Rotterham 4-4-2 Narrow Diamond
CS 1-0 win vs Sheff Wed 4-3-3

CS 0-1 loss vs Charlton 4-2-3-1
CS 1-1 draw vs Brighton 4-4-2
FAC 3-0 win vs Leeds 4-4-2
CS 2-2 draw vs QPR 4-2-3-1
FAC 2-0 win vs Norwich 4-2-3-1

CS 5-2 loss vs Reading 4-4-2
FAC 2-1 win vs South Hampton 4-4-1-1
CS 3-3 draw vs Brentford 4-2-3-1 Narrow
CS 2-0 loss vs Huddersfield 4-4-1-1
CS 3-0 win vs Middlesbrough 4-2-3-1

FAC 2-0 win vs West Ham 4-4-1-1
CS 2-0 win vs Burnley 4-4-2
CS 1-0 win vs MK Dons 4-2-3-1
CS 3-0 win vs Hull 4-1-4-1
CS 1-1 draw vs Leeds 4-2-3-1

CS 2-1 win vs Notthingham Forest 4-2-3-1 DM Wide
CS Playoffs 2-2 draw vs Huddersfield 4-4-1-1

So 16 wins, 8 draws, 7 losses on the road.
I'd say that's very decent results for an away tactic.

It is also evident that this tactic does very, very well against the 4-2-3-1, the 4-4-1-1, the 4-4-2 narrow diamond, and the 4-3-3 dm wide.
This tactic did the worst against the 5-2-1-2, the 4-3-2-1, and the 4-2-1-3 DM.
This tactic performed middling against the 4-4-2, yielding more draws than wins or losses.

Because you will encounter the formations, that this tactic is strongest against very commonly -- ie 4-2-3-1, 4-4-1-1, 4-4-2 narrow, and 4-3-3 dm, I stand by the strength of this tactic as a very good away tactic. And we've seen it work at the Championship level with a team that was media predicted to finish 12th at the start of the season.

BTW here is the 'park the bus' tactic I used to shock Arsenal in the FA Cup Final.
View attachment 174828

We were severely overmatched talent-wise. But managed to pull the upset by parking the bus, and taking advantage of our 2 clear cut chances for the victory!

Here is a look at the Wolves starting XI that advanced to the Premier League:
View attachment 174827

Please consider their ages, then tell me if you can't win with kids!! (L=Loan)

AML Dueland 18L
ST Afobe 23
AMR Van La Parra 24
AP Nouri 19L
BWM Ojo 18L
DLP Gaudino 19L
LB Targett 20
LCB Hause 20
RCB Batth 25
RB Byrne 23
GK Martinez 23L

Average age of this side - 22!!!
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Nov 8, 2014
Vjcsmoke if i make the DM bwm and the CM dlp will it ruin the tactic?what do you think?
You play Can/Henderson in these roles?

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Mar 7, 2014
Sorry, but this tactic is sh#t. Played match against City and lost 3-0. My team created no chances, although I have squad with really qualified players.


Feb 19, 2013
Vjcsmoke if i make the DM bwm and the CM dlp will it ruin the tactic?what do you think?
You play Can/Henderson in these roles?

Yes, I feel that can work as well. Where you put the BWM is a matter of preference, I placed the BWM further up the field, so that he can feed the counterattacks from a higher position up the pitch.

But placing the BWM in the back makes sense too as he will be closer to the back 4. It is essential that he quickly plays the ball up the field to a more creative midfielder though, so that the next key pass will feed the counter attack -- turning defense into offense!

Henderson's best role as CM default is box to box, and Can's best role default as DM is DLP. However you can train them in the role specified, for example Henderson as DLP and Can as BWM. I feel tackling and marking are more important for the BWM. While passing, vision, teamwork are more important for the DLP.
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